Laurie Pilling from Admark Visual Imaging, shown here at the recent Pride in Print awards, is a staunch supporter of the Waikato Regional Theatre project.

A successful local businessman says the Waikato Regional Theatre will be essential infrastructure for Hamilton’s development as a world-beating cosmopolitan city.

Laurie Pilling and his company Admark Visual Imaging have supported sport and community facilities across the Waikato, including the Waterworld Hydrotherapy Pool and the Avantidrome. Now they have donated $50,000 to the Waikato Regional Theatre project because it will ensure “the balance of the city”.

“A good big city needs a good big theatre”, says Laurie. “It’s a piece of public infrastructure, not a commercial building that needs to give a return, it’s for the good of everyone in the Waikato.”

The Waikato has top facilities for sport, education, family activities, outdoor recreation and the visual arts. The long-time philanthropist says an international standard performing arts venue is always a feature of any true city’s balanced mix of lifestyle amenities.

“Hamilton is the capital of the Waikato and it’s the role of a city to provide facilities for its region, to be the hub, to host the cultural things for everyone within driving distance.

“I like opera, ballet and classical music, so I’m looking forward to seeing the NZSO and other great orchestras performing here in a top-class theatre with good acoustics,” says Laurie, “but it will be so flexible, every taste will be covered.”

The St Andrews resident enjoys living near the Waikato River and says the new theatre’s location will bring the waterway to life.

“It’s a wonderful site, there will be lots of events overlooking the water, so the theatre will significantly add value to both the river and the city.”

Laurie has recently stepped back from the lead role as Admark’s Managing Director (“I’m too busy to say I’m retired”), although the award-winning firm is staying in family hands.

“I have been in Hamilton for 32 years, after 20 years in the army,” says the former Lt Colonel, “I refused to live in Auckland, so Hamilton was the obvious choice, I’ve never regretted moving here.”

As he’s watched the city grow, Laurie has “assisted from time to time”. He and Admark have contributed widely, including sponsoring Sport Waikato, the Gallagher Chiefs and the Hamilton 150th Anniversary. Last year Laurie’s support for the community was recognised with a Hamilton Civic Award, adding to his and Admark’s numerous industry awards and the MBE he received for his military service.

“It’s a beautiful city to live in, when I drive visitors around, to the Gardens, to the river, they’re impressed by what a nice city it is, how it feels, what it looks like. People like living here, every street I drive down, they look after their homes and gardens.

“Likewise, it always strikes me when I pass through the surrounding towns – Morrinsville, Te Awamutu, Cambridge and the rest – they’re lovely places, again people take pride. The Waikato is a great place to live and to raise a family.”

The theatre will help the development of the whole region, as easy access to the best live entertainment will make the Waikato even more attractive to top talent looking for a healthy and diverse lifestyle.

“Overall, the new Waikato Regional Theatre just looks really good. It’s the right size in the right place, and with all its options, it is what we want for Hamilton and the Waikato.”